On the sixth day of the sixth month of the year 2006 we gathered to pray, worship and celebrate communion together in our home in Beijing with Chinese and foreign brothers and sisters. We desired to seek ways to help mobilize the Chinese Church for Great Commission work. We wrestled with many questions: How does God want to use Pioneers in China to serve in the sending out of Chinese missionaries? What role can we have? Are we needed? The response came from our Chinese brothers who said, “We need you to ‘pu lu xian feng’ ”—to go ahead to prepare the road, to smooth the way.
First, they asked us to introduce them to contacts in Central Asia the Middle East and Russia. Second, they asked us if we would help find letters of invitation (NGOs, business, agriculture, medical, academic) for Chinese missionaries so that they could apply for visas. Third, they asked us if we would help with the training for a small pilot project. They spoke of the testimonies of Chinese already serving in the Middle East and we were amazed to hear of the many ways God has used Chinese missionaries in closed Islamic countries. We are grateful to be in a close relationship with some of China’s gifted missionary leaders.
It was a joy to travel with a friend to Central Asia and to stand by his side as he shared about the Chinese Church and its mission movement. As my friend spoke in Chinese, I translated into English and a Kazak brother translated into Russian.
China is shifting from being a receiving country to becoming a sending country.
It was a joy to see the Kazak believers connecting with this dear Chinese mission leader. While traveling across Uzbekistan and Afghanistan we learned of the suffering of the Church. We heard stories of arrests and harassment of church leaders. In Dushanbe, we were told of more crackdowns and difficulties in the Church. Again and again they asked if we could send some of China’s house church pastors to teach on suffering in the name of Jesus. In Kabul, Bishkek and Kazakhstan, we saw the hand of God moving through his Chinese servants.
The Boom of China’s Population and Economy
China is shifting from being a receiving country to becoming a sending country. For nearly two hundred years China has been on the receiving end of missions. Since the day Robert Morrison arrived in Macao in 1807, many other missionaries have made the trip from the West to the East. Now the tide is beginning to flow back out! In fact, many Christians in China have already been sent out as missionaries to places such as Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia.
To understand the size of China we can compare it to the US. The US has nine cities with a population over one million; China has between one hundred and 160 cities that have a population over one million.
As China’s economy grows, so too does the sending capacity of the Church in China. China’s economy has grown nearly ten percent in the past six months. By the year 2020 China will be sending out more than 115 million tourists a year.1 China is making parts for Boeing 757s and is exploring space travel with its own domestically-built rockets. By 2010 half of all Chinese will live in cities. China now has the world’s fourth largest economy. The US has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 11.7 trillion USD.2 The official GDP of China is 1.9 trillion USD, but a more realistic estimate is about 7.3 trillion USD. China is already about four-fifths the size of the US economy. By 2050 China’s economy could well be seventy-five percent bigger than the US economy. The Chinese Church’s role in mission is only going to grow over the next thirty years.
Today Chinese missionaries serving in Muslim countries have much more freedom to witness because they are not from the West. In 2005, teams of Chinese missionaries went into Pakistan after the December 2004 massive earthquake. They took blankets, tents, food, Bibles and Christian literature in Urdu. The Pakistani people were very open to the gospel during this time. When the Chinese NGOs would approach in their Jeeps (which had Chinese flags on them) the locals would yell, “The Christians are coming!” They would run toward the Jeeps, eager to receive the help that was offered in the name of Jesus.
Today Chinese missionaries serving in Muslim countries have much more freedom to witness because they are not from the West.
Church leaders in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are asking for Chinese pastors and missionaries to come and teach on suffering. The years of suffering under the hand of the Communist government have placed Chinese church leaders in a unique place to help these young pastors who are facing arrest, imprisonment and harassment in Central Asia.
Few joys have surpassed that of participating in two days of teaching in an underground training center in west China. I translated for one instructor as he taught a group of Chinese missionary candidates how to reach out to Muslims. At the end of our time together our Chinese hosts took us to a feast of roasted lamb in the heart of the downtown bazaar. After sharing a meal and laughter, they eagerly asked if the instructor would come to the Middle East to help train their workers. They invited him to return to west China to train more Chinese missionaries on how to reach out to Muslims in the name of Jesus. We thanked God for one more glimpse of the work he is doing through Chinese believers.
On 22 June 2006 we hosted another partnership gathering of foreigners and Chinese church leaders in our home. These believers were Chinese, Korean and Korean American. They all shared a deep passion for the mobilization of the Church in China. During the meeting those in attendance shared resources, discussed difficult issues, gave updates concerning new developments and made new connections for future ministry. Although we do not know what the road ahead will look like, we know that God has placed us on this path and he will show us the way.
For information on this vision of the Chinese Church and sending missionaries, send an email to [email protected].
2. Fishman, Ted. 2005. China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World. New York.